Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Vernet - Toilette de Spectacle

I admit, I am a bit proud of the result. The dress definitely was more work than I anticipated, but mostly due to my choice of materials, attempted shortcuts and redoing some parts.

Sabine (http://kleidungum1800.blogspot.com) mercifully asked me early, and I picked one of the less precarious outfits. 


But also, lo and behold: the 1815 publication in the Journal des Dames et des Modes, what tells us that the dress material is silk:

I'm really not much into ruffles, chemisettes, falbalas, rushing and rouleaux. I prefer clean sober lines, where good material takes over the stage, based on the enlarged picture of the hem I've settled on two layers, white silk taffeta and a stiff silk tulle. 

Gold braid and fringe would have been the obvious choice, though me being me and not much into glitzy and golden, I wanted to use spun straw, as it's something I've seen in museums, but it's rarely ever done. (I believe Lyze of The Ornamented Being is the only one I can remember having done straw embroidery before). There are some last master artisans in Switzerland, who spin straw to gold, as we call it here, but it wasn't to be. 

Summer 15 saw plan B resurfacing: gold braid and fringe and the hunt of sufficient length of material. Etsy to the rescue. Or so I thought. I spare you the disaster stories, but I offer you to learn from my adventure: forget cheap bouillon, forget Etsy, go to the pros. 
With braid this translates to Hand & Lock, in the UK. I followed a recommendation by Izabela Pitcher on her blog (adamselindisdress.wordpress.com) and I wasn't disappointed: Quick, relatively inexpensive and at an outstanding quality, a definite 'Yes again!' (Actually, I will need to order some more, as I stupidly ordered too little of the braid)

The sewing is rather straight forward, a simple backclosing dress, following a basic layout for an 1815 style with ribbon closure at the top and a single handmade hook at the bottom of the bodice. I say rather. Basting thread became my best friend. I basted every seam, every layer on top of the other, as the tulle was a true joy to work. With settling on the metal fringe I've had to say goodbye to the idea of two separate dresses, and work the bodice as one layer.
The decoration gobbled up my last nerve. At the beginning I was still set on the edging being bouillon, thus went for whipstitch-gathering instead of a running stitch (what turned out to be completely innessesary once I've unpicked the snagging bouillon from the snagging tulle and added the braid). After the second rushing was added, I realised my error of measurement thus the lack of braid, and had the joy to unpick that part again.
By that time I was certain, absolutely certain I was working at the equivalent of an 1800 Versace. Too much of everything. 

The hat on the other hand turned out quite nicely. I've covered an old felt riding hat I bought 5 years ago in Florence with rose coloured silk taffeta, combined three ostrich feathers into a single plume each, and fixed my new and now fluffy plumes with a couple of stitches onto the hat, added a bit of ribbon to the front and the chin-strap. I usually avoid bonnets with chinstraps, the are not very becoming to me, and the final pictures showed that chinstraps don't do my face any favour, and I liked wearing the hat without the strap much better.

The gloves are my dear old trusted Friedlin Suedes, the short shawl is a modern reproduction I obtained at the eBoutique of the RMN, thus too short for the Big Shawl, but just the ticket for the shorter stoles worn. The shoes are white Thistle dance shoes. 
I decided to forgoe any bijoux, with the exception of the comb, as the dress was already way too sparkly for my taste. The lady who wore such an outfit in 1814 had apparently similar thoughts, there is nothing visible in regard to jewellery.

I interpreted Toilette de Spectacle into 'something to be worn to the Opera' and interpreted the lady on the plate having already shed her coat, and will hand over hat and stole to an attendant. 
My picture is more the lady getting ready to leave the house, maybe having a last sip of coffee, checking a last time a communicated detail before setting out.

The look I liked best though was when playing around with the echarpe, what lent the gaudy dress a flowing and elegant air, and reconsiled me with my fluffy, glitzy tulle monster. (And show me the woman who never read War and Peace and wanted to have Natasha Rostova's tulle dance dress?)


And now: time for the morning tea :-)


Monday, 21 December 2015

Der Spiegel von Arkadien

Don't you just love it when one bit of information leads to another hint, around another corner and leads you to yet a new facet from times past? 

This happened just today. 
In the last couple of days there were some nice pins coming up on Pinterest, mostly by Sabine. Among them was also this lovely one from the Rijksmuseum

Another friend, lovely Miss A. asked me what is written on the poster, and I obliged by translating. Der Spiegel von Arkadien - Arcadian Mirror. 
Suddenly the line struck something. 
Der Spiegel Von Arkadien. Where did I read this? Thoughts went racing. 
Arcadia, the Idyll? Nope. Arkadien in Arenenberg? Nope, that bit of Arcadia was created 20 years later. A play by Gessner? Negative. The landscape garden in Arlesheim? Negative again. 
Music. Possibly music. Must be music. Yes! The song 'Seit ich soviele Weiber sah' started in my head, I've heard it years ago during a recital of contemporary composers of Mozart at the Mozartweg in Aarburg, and I remembered it was from a work called 'Something Arcadia'. 
Must be Schikaneder, because of German and bearing similarities to Papageno's airs. 
And then again happened, what I adore of today's world of digitalisation: I've had some clues, punched them into the search engine, and had all the information at my fingertips. 

What luxury, there lies so much information, about this opera. The full score, the libretto, all of what was considered to be one of the most popular operas of the late 18th century, composed by Franz Xaver Süssmayr, libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder is available to us.
The opera premiered in November 1794 in the Theater auf der Wieden, had grand success, apparently translated in many languages. (If you happen to stumble over a local advertisement from 'our' period, please share, I keep my eyes open) 
A modern (2014) review: 
Quote: "Franz Xaver Süßmayr (1766–1803) launched a career as one of the most respected German opera composers of the time with the success of Der Spiegel von Arkadien.
The critical reception was almost uniformly enthusiastic; the score was even compared to that of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, rare praise for the time."
The full libretto can be read here: 
A CD recording came out back in 2006, I will certainly endeavour to order it, what I've heard so far was easy and pleasing to the ear, it's just this bit of light and airy music what makes me cheerful and chipper.
And to have the circle closing - there are our lovely fashionable ladies, in Spring/Summer 1795, apparently discussing whether or not to go and hear the latest Big Hit, or maybe discussing details of it? What thrills me is the fact that this piece of music was popular enough to be integrated into a fashion plate. And yes, I admit, having a little earful of popular music and plays (taking up the long dispute between Schiller admirers and Kotzebue-Acolytes) gives us just yet another tiny glimpse into everyday life 220 years ago.

Isn't this grand on what wonderful little promenades one fashion print can take us? Contrary to the ladies in the print, we don't have to wait for the music. 
Edit: Sabine supplied me with this link regarding the adaptation by Christian August Vulpius in Weimar

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

The indispensable carry-on

LAs a modern woman, my bag is some sort of my back-up home, housing not only keys and purse, but usually one to two books, little medical kit, hankies, electronic devices, sunglasses, cosmetic bag. Customary, it weights a ton.
My réticule for time travels is approximatively the same, and usually the aim of much ridicule in return.
Last year during an event I was suddenly put into the situation of not being allowed to take my réticule along, as carrying train, shawl and a beautiful yet heavy guirlande was all I could manage. 
My solution was simple, I asked Monsieur if he could carry my bare essentials (ID card, emergency money) in his coats pockets, after all, these pockets are deep and sturdy.
Little I did know that this is precisely what women did in the period! 

A couple of days ago I posted about 'The Modern Woman', who carries nothing on her but a book (JdDedM No3, An8 of publication, 15 vendémiaire, An12) 15 days later the fashionable lady carries nothing but a fan. 
And all her necessities go into the gentleman's frock pockets, aptly named 'Ridicule'. In one short paragraph LeMésangère answers our question if these pockets are a reenactorism (No) and if Ladies made use of those pockets (Yes)
I let the man now speak for himself: Journal des Dames et des Modes, No 6, 30 vendémiaire, An12.
Source as usual: BNF via Gallica

Every day ladies erase their pockets and bags, and the gentleman take over. Ladies don't carry anythig, and the men have to burden themselves carrying their indispensables of their companions.
Consequently, to carry glasses, the knotted handkerchief (be sure to check out Sabines recent post, she delves into bag sizes and also into knotted hankies!!), and the small bottles (scent or salts?) of the ladies, men have started to have pockets in their coats again, as one did in earlier times. 
Only the name of those pockets has changed to ridicule, to make its use clear. 
The ladies can't or won't wear anything else than a fan once their in full dress.

P.S.: I prefer to use the expression Réticule, but I discovered that spelling is quite optional (same goes for Schall, Shall, Châle, Châll, Shawl), it is purely my personal preference to spell it that way. 

Thursday, 20 August 2015

The Frascati

While posting yesterday's trouvaille, I realised that many hints to actors, plays, places are quite obvious to me, but maybe not to everyone else. (I remember the puzzled look on Monsieurs face when discussing the find)

I think I'll start a wee series, with short introductions to places and sights, for future reference and less footnotes ;-)

The Frascati

Thanks to the generous online access of the Rijksmuseum we can enjoy this lovely engraving in high resolution, without travelling to see it in their archives.

As you can see, it's an opulent place. Elegant. Where one goes to see and be seen, and to enjoy delicious food. Debucourt gives us an impression of the place in 1807.
The French Wikipedia Page also offers us a first hand report from an English visitor in 1802, who was quite smitten by the place.
I would love to find in some archive or other some documents telling us what they've had on offer, and how pricey it was. I interpret from it being frequented by the readership of the Journal des Dames et des Modes (what wasn't cheap), that the prices correspond, and we can use the Florian or LaDurée as a modern equivalent. The original Frascati was demolished in the 19th century, the name though lives on with an Italian Deli in the middle of Paris.

The description of the Rijksmuseum illustrates it beautifully as well: "In 1789 the Italian Garchi Café Frascati opened near the Paris Opéra. This became a spot where sophisticated Parisians went not only to enjoy perfumed ices, lemonade, punch and tea, but also, and more importantly, to be seen. On 4 August 1806 the Journal des Dames observed, ‘Last Thursday, Frascati glittered as never before. Its rooms were filled with ladies dressed up as if going to the theatre.’"

Sabine, the wonderful scholar behind Kleidung um 1800 also found a reference in the German publication Journal des Luxus und der Moden, April 1802, where a correspondent describes the splendours of Paris to the magazine's readership.
As I love to see whenever the Journals interlock and shed different bits of light on a subject, I would like to share her find: 

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

The Modern Woman...

...Doesn't carry a réticule, nor something else, but a book :-)

Today's Trouvaille from Journal des Dames et des Modes, Nr 3, Year 8 (October 1803)

The ladies go out in the morning. According to fashion, they carry neither money, nor a handkerchief, nor a réticule in their hand, but a book. Therefor the daily stroll becomes a meeting point for blue stockings. We don't see them anymore at Rennelagh; and in the evenings the fashionable family splits as such: Madame goes to watch Miss Duchesnois or Elleviou, the children visit the Pittoresque and Mechanical theatre, and Monsieur goes to Frascati.


Mlle Duchesnois: a famous tragic actress. https://fr.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catherine-Joséphine_Duchesnois

Mlle Duchesnois was a rival to today better known Mlle Georges, and a protégée of Joséphine Bonaparte. 

The Ranelagh is a théâtre established in 1722, mostly performing comedies, thus a meeting point for the Young and Beautiful.

The Frascati is like the Ranelagh or the Tivoli one of the hotspots for all the Bright a Young Things. 
Famous for Ices.

Thus the interpretation is: Madame is fashionably (read superficially)redirected towards tragedy (the higher form of theatre), the Children are enthused by technical novelties, while Monsieur visits the ice-cream parlour. 

Friday, 26 June 2015


Even I can't escape the 1815 fever at this moment. Though being a citydwelling lady, I will not bore you with a description of a bloody battle, severed limbs and cruelly dying horses, I present you my YouTube trouvaille of today: a piercingly mocking song about the Allied Occupation, written by Pierre-Jean de Béranger

You can find here a selection of de Bérengers poems translated into English in 1850; the one above sadly not among them, yet it offers a very nice insight into the popular poetry at the time, often with a short explanatory introduction to the political situation on what the piece is aimed.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Purple Silk Slippers by Melnotte

Last weekend, aside from travelling to 1814 and being a milliner with Madame Sabine Bettinger, we also visited the Antiques Market in Dortmund. Among some other treasures (e.g. a genuine Berlin-Iron necklace, the first for me to see outside a museum), I run into these shoes: 

Purchased during the Antiques Market in Dortmund, June 15, 2015.
Provenience: unknown, dealer bought them as "old ballet shoes" from another dealer about a year ago.

Paris made silk slippers. Makers label inside of right shoe reads: 

No 19, 
Rue de la Paix, 
près le Boulevard 
des Capucines
Md Cordonnier
pour les Dames
à Paris

The shoes are hand-stitched, made on a single last, upper material was once purple silk, now faded brown/beige.
Lined with kid leather in the rear part, lined with linen in the front. 
The edge is bound with silk ribbon, what is filled with a small woven cotton (?) ribbon (passepoil). 

The right slipper, in a better condition than the L.

A rather high vamp, decorated with a silk bow.

The shredded ribbon reveals the filling of the passepoil

Measurements: Length of sole 22.5cm. (= ca. US size 6, UK 5, EU 36-37)
smallest part of sole 2.6cm
Larges part at heel 4.4cm
Larges part at toebox: 4.6cm
Thickness of sole is 1-2mm only

Max length R

Max Width R

Min Width R

Sole "thickness", less than 2mm

Both soles still bear the nail marks of the moment they've been nailed onto the last, and some of these marks also penetrate the insole. I think that after turning the shoe, they were nailed into the last while letting dry and taking shape. The linen of the toebox has been treated with some kind of starch or glue.

Left: Holes piercing all sole layers, middle
shows two holes only in outer sole

Again, the holes what did not pierce the insole.

Glued in insole, with label, inscription droite and holes from nailing onto the last.

The shoes have visibly been worn, the silk at the area of the small toes has been stressed, and both shoes have visible stressmarks at the inside seam of the upper material (left shoe was mended rather crudely with purple thread, less faded than the silk.)

The silk at the toebox of the left shoe split due to age and possbily bad storage, giving us a glimpse of the unfaded colour inside, and also of the gluey feel of the linen.

Both shoes have purple ribbons attached, measuring 45-47cm, and a little bow of the same purple material at the vamp. 

For comparison I photographed a pair of my satin dance slippers (very abused, last ball did them in).

Comparison Shot

Comparison Shot

Modern dance slipper - width at same height as Melnotte 
Max Width Melnotte

Smallest area modern dance shoe

Smallest area Melnotte Slipper

A quick internet search about the Maitre Cordonnier Melnotte results in quite a few surviving shoes (e.g. at the Metropolitan Museum of Art). It appears that his most successful export period were the 1820 to 1840, with new shoe labels printed yearly and opening stores in other cities, e.g. in 23 Bond Street, London.

He is also mentioned in the 1824 edition of Nouvelle Encyclopédie des Arts et 
Metiers - Art de la Chaussure. (source http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k6260279d)

The address given, Rue de la Paix is to this day one of the most famous streets in relation with Fashion, Worth opened his couture house in 1885 at 7, rue de la Paix. 
Duvelleroy (fanmaker) established it's premises in 1827 in No. 15, rue de la Paix.

The Street "Rue de la Paix was newly created in 1806, first called "Rue Napoleon", then changed to Rue de la Paix in 1814 after the Restoration. 
On the city map dating 1799 we can't see the Rue Napoleon yet, but on the second picture I indicate where the street was running through the Capucine monastery (what was therefore wrecked to make room)


By piecing this information together, we can say that the shoes can't have been made in said premises before 1814 (because it wasn't rue de la Paix yet), but not after 1852, as in that year  the Parisian Firm of Maison Marret Baugrand was established no 19 by Gustave Baugrand and Paul Marret. (Paul Marret died the next year and Baugrand continued in partnership with Marret’s wife for a decade. They were known for their designs and production of high quality. They became the official “Joaillier de l’Empereur” Eugénie in 1855. (Source:  http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/lot.pdf.N08882.html/f/58/N08882-58.pdf)

In 1834 the Cordonnier Melnotte was situated at 22 rue de la Paix

But not after1844, as in this year the cordonnier Duffossée succeeded Melnotte in 19, rue de la Paix, as described in the Moniteur de la Mode

My guess in dating these shoes is towards the early period of the House Melnotte, as the label inside my shoes corresponds with a label of earlier shoes. Apparently Melnotte spread out from No 19 to 19 & 22, to finish in No 22. 
Shoes dated into the mid-40ies by the Met also have a more modern label, with the text: À Paris,/20 Rue de la Paix./Melnotte,/Bté. de L.L.M.M. la Reine des Français et la Reine des Belges./25 Old Bond Street,/London."

(Acc. No 2009.300.4716a, b) or the label in between, mentioning London, but not yet the Qeen of Belgium: 

By the way: Melnotte still figures at Shoe-Icons.com

I finish this blogpost with a request: If anyone has more information to the founding of the Cordonnier Melnotte, and more to his history, please give a sign :-) 

Saturday, 23 May 2015

A practical wee thing

What shall one do if after a bigger project, as sewing several dresses for a ball, one isn't in a mood for sewing? Start with a small and practical project.

In my reticule, I need to carry some modern things around, as would anyone else. And I don't really like to rummage in a mixture of historical looking pocket detritus and modern convenience.
Some silk scraps, silk thread, some wool to pad the project, and some fine cardboard for shape, and we have a practical little pocketbook :-)

For the "How authentic measure" - I have to admit, in my opinion it's not matching with any "Authenticy Measure" - at all. ¨

I didn't work after any particular example, the size has been defined by a Reclam paperback book what was handy for the shape and the size of the silk scraps. Also it lacks ties. And for the herringbone stitching - If one is too daft to verify the size while stitching.. well - let's call it - A Practical Artistic Anachronistic Pocketbook :-)
Still, I like the way it looks, it will be very practical for future outings.

Folded up

The inside, with the herringbone stitch to connect the pieces

With some proper correspondence inside

The outside. The embroidery is executed mostly in stemstich, some french knots and some leafy bits.

And it's raison d'être inside my reticule - the modern correspondence tool...

Saturday, 2 May 2015

La dame avec schall bleue

A bit over three months ago, I was happily perusing the webstore of the renounced "Emporium of Ephraim Bay", and pinning onto my latest Pinterest spleen - the shawl colour boards (see e.g. here - Blue shawl) when I stumbled over this lovely lady.

Her graceful expression and clever use of accessories (blue ribbon belt, blue shawl, blue earrings) had me in a "What an elegant lady! Who must she have been?" happy dance. I pinned her, and went sometimes back checking on the auction, silently counting my centimes and hoping against all reason that the lady would still be there when I managed to save the sum to buy her miniature. A couple of days later, she was gone. I was sad, but shrugged it off, there are so many beautiful things at Mr Bays Emporium, one day I might find something what captures me equally.

About 2 weeks later, a Saturday morning when the mailman called my husband to sign for a parcel. When he returned, he handed me the package, and said "I believe, this is for you".
Lo and behold:

It's her! The Lady with the Blue Shawl!

Thanks to the sweetest husband of all, there was this lovely painting in our home.
You may notice, that the upper right corner is clouded. So did I: for the last couple of months I tried to figure out, if it's but the glass, or the wafer. And if it's just the glass, is it scratches or dirt? Would I damage the wafer?

Today I took up all my courage, and started loosening the already torn paper on the back.
Backside, before carefully cutting
 away the paper
The paper was already so frail,
that it tore away without much help.
It's the glass! It's just the glass. And the grime was easily giving way to gentle cleaning with cotton wool and water!

And while I was cleaning the glass, I took the chance to take some pictures of Madame Ne m'oubliez Pas (Mrs Forget-me-Not, due to the shade of blue) without the glass.

She's undamaged, it was just the glass!

The wafer has been damaged a little bit, you see the missing sliver on the left
side, and the piece of painted ivory below it, on the newspaper. 

The glass was surprisingly easy to clean, first I tried when it was still in the frame, then I was able to remove it and gave it a good wash.

The cleaned glass on a newspaper reprint of March 1814

Apart from the little bubbles and imperfection from it's making, it's clean and flawless. Fitting the well dried glass back into it's frame was a tad fiddlier, it's not quite symmetrical, and only fits in one way.

I finished the repair by glueing some replica printed paper from the Basel Historical Museum onto the back. When all is dry, Mme Ne m'oubliez-pas will find a place among some 1792 prints by Angelika Kauffman and some gravures of Journal des Dames.
I am still insanely happy that it was just a dirty glass, and not a damaged painting!

The new backing, and the penknife I used to loosen the old paper.

In the cleaned frame

Modern helpers: paper tissues, Q-tips, clean water, scissors to cut the new backing.

Many thanks again to my most generous and sweet husband. And also to Sabine for the newspaper, what gave me a nice surface to see if the cleaning is effective. (One could also use a modern paper, but it was more fun and inspirational to use a 1814 reprin